Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Texas hill country...Golden cheeked Warbler and Black capped Vireo

Golden cheeked Warbler, Balcones Canyonlands NWR, TX, Apr 8, 2017
Golden cheeked Warbler, Balcones Canyonlands NWR, TX, Apr 8, 2017
Golden cheeked Warbler, Balcones Canyonlands NWR, TX, Apr 8, 2017
Looking west from Warbler Vista, Balcones Canyonlands NWR, TX, Apr 8, 2017
I headed down to Texas for a brief trip starting on Saturday the 8th and began in Austin to visit the hill country before making the long ride down to Big Bend National Park. The main targets for the trip included Golden cheeked Warbler and Black capped Vireo in the hill country and Colima Warbler at Big Bend NP. All three of these species have limited range in the US with the first two being endangered species due to ongoing habitat destruction. Colima Warblers are not as rare overall but the only spot they nest in the US is within Big Bend NP. I had to make some changes to my plans in regard to more intense hiking as I hurt my back at work again and I almost didn't get to make the trip but thankfully I managed to salvage the trip. I arrived in Austin around midday and after a quick lunch headed over to St. Edwards Park northwest of the city to try to catch up with some Golden cheeked Warblers that had recently been seen there.  Unfortunately due to it being the weekend and the park being quite crowded there were no warblers to be found.  Without too much luck at St Edwards Park I decided to make a run out to Balcones Canyonlands NWR to try my luck there. I arrived there late in the afternoon and despite the late hour and a near continuous wind I found first one and eventually four Golden cheeked Warbler including at least three males singing, all in the area of the appropriately named Warbler Vista. The Golden cheeked Warbler became life bird #1300 for me as well as my 69th new world warbler species. A beautiful, sunny start to the trip to be sure.
Black capped Vireo, South Llano River SP, Junction, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Black capped Vireo, South Llano River SP, Junction, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Yellow breasted Chat, South Llano River SP, Junction, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Black throated Sparrow, South Llano River SP, Junction, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Black tailed Prairie Dog, Marathon, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Burrowing Owl, Marathon, TX, Apr 9, 2017
I was up before dawn on Sunday and was greeted with clouds, a decent breeze and occasional drizzle as I drove back out to Balcones Canyonlands NWR again. I waited outside the gate for the park to open and added a calling Common Poorwill for the trip. Once the gate opened I drove back up to the same area I had the Golden cheeked Warblers and once again had one singing despite the less than ideal conditions. I was certainly happy I made it up the previous day when the weather was nicer and the birds more photogenic. After my time in the Warbler Vista section of the refuge I drove further north to visit the Shin Oak area in the quest to find some Black capped Vireos. This area is known for the species but is typically closed to the public in the early part of the nesting season. Thankfully the area just opened up the day before to the public and upon my arrival was rewarded right away with at least a couple calling vireos. True to their reputation of staying well hidden I never managed to get more than fleeting glimpses of the birds despite them being mere feet away at times. Nonetheless I was still quite happy to find them even if the looks were less than stellar. As the morning wore on and the weather did not seem to be improving in the area I was in I decided to begin my long drive over to Big Bend (with frequent stops to stretch my legs). My best stop along the way was at South Llano River SP just south of Junction which had recent reports of both Golden winged Warbler and Black capped Vireo. It turned out to be a very active place with both of the above species present (including much better views of the vireos). In addition the bird blinds and trails there were quite productive for a wide range of species both resident and migrants. It was tough to tear myself away from the area but I still had a lot of driving to make it to my lodging near Big Bend. Another neat stop on my way was just outside the town of Marathon at a large prairie dog town, which produced several Burrowing Owls, Scaled Quail (life bird), various raptors and lots of prairie dogs.

Hooded Merganser eggs in box #1, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2017
Eggs in box #2, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2017
American Robin with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 11, 2017
While I was gone from home for several days the area experienced some record setting heat (85 degrees) brought in by southerly winds. The winds also brought in a number of early season migrants and I spent some time this morning tracking some of them down including my first Yellow rumped Warblers, Louisiana Waterthush, Barn Swallow, Blue gray Gnatcatcher, Field Sparrow and Eastern Towhee. I also checked the duck boxes again and this time found a Hooded Merganser sitting on eggs in one of the boxes...still not sure what species is in the second box. Also while I was away I had one of my motion camera set on the water feature and I had 220+ shots to go through! Most were Gray Squirrels and Dark eyed Juncos but I also managed to get Song Sparrow, Mourning Dove, American Goldfinch, Black capped Chickadee and American Robin (including a banded individual I had not seen since last fall) plus a mouse.

No comments:

Post a Comment